Ottawa, Ontario – Most Canadians primarily associate cell phones with distracted driving and continue to engage in other unsafe distracted behaviours, according to a new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF).

When asked what they associate with distracted driving, 72.2 per cent of respondents first thought of cell phones. The other top five included eating and drinking (4 per cent), passengers (3.4 per cent), other drivers (2.9 per cent) and changing radio stations or CDs (2.8 per cent).

“Distraction is a diversion of the driver’s attention from the driving task,” said Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of TIRF. “This issue is much broader than just cell phones and includes distractions inside the vehicle such as eating, drinking, smoking, as well as distractions outside the vehicle such as looking at billboards, other drivers or scenery along the road.”

While less than 20 per cent of respondents admitted using cell phones or other technical devices, many admitted to engaging in other distracting activities, such as talking or interacting with passengers (67 per cent) and changing radio stations or CDs while driving (45.8 per cent). This suggests that a large number of drivers engage in distracting behaviours and may not be aware of the risk.

“In reality, people cannot multitask,” Robertson said. “While we may think that we’re multitasking, our brains are actually switching back and forth between tasks, and the more we jump from one task to the other, the less we focus on each individual task.”

While few drivers admitted to being in a collision in the last year due to being distracted, 27 per cent said they had to brake and 13 per cent had to steer to avoid a collision in the last month because of distraction.

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